TOPEKA — Labette County District Judge Robert J. Fleming has been recognized by the Kansas District Judges Association for extraordinary leadership and service.

Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss of the Kansas Supreme Court presented Fleming the Community Outreach and Education Award at the association's meeting during a statewide conference for judges in June.

"Being the 2017 recipient of the Community Outreach and Education Award was a complete surprise to me. I am deeply honored and very grateful for the recognition," Fleming said.

The award is given annually to a district judge who demonstrates extraordinary leadership and service in educating the public about courts and the judicial branch, with emphasis on developing public trust and confidence, supporting access to justice and fairness in the courts, defending the independence of the courts, and promoting the judiciary as an equal branch of government.

Fleming is retiring July 14, after 21 years on the bench and a total of 49 years of service to the legal profession.

He grew up in Pittsburg and graduated from what is now Pittsburg State University. He served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and attended Washburn University Law School, graduating in 1968. He practiced law in Pittsburg for 28 years, eventually becoming a partner of Wilbert & Towner. He was appointed a district court judge in 1996.

Fleming is past president of KDJA, has chaired the Kansas Judicial Qualifications Commission, has been a member of the Kansas Judicial Council since 2005, and has served on several Kansas Bar Association committees. He was appointed in 2010 by the chief judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals to a three-member panel to hear the Gannon v. Kansas school finance case.